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Other coroners differ with Kennedy's behavior



Published: Wed, April 28, 2010 @ 12:10 a.m.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

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Dr. David Kennedy

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Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk

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Three were killed Saturday when a car traveling between 80 and 90 mph on Blossom Avenue crashed into a house, top, at 525 Cynthia Drive, where Blossom dead-ends. This is a picture of the car after the accident.

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Three were killed Saturday when a car traveling between 80 and 90 mph on Blossom Avenue crashed into a house, top, at 525 Cynthia Drive, where Blossom dead-ends.

SERVICES

Calling hours for Poetry Dotson, 21, are 5 to 7 p.m. today at the Van Dyke-Swaney-Rettig Funeral Home, 60 W. Martin St., East Palestine. The funeral begins at 7 p.m. there.

Calling hours for Ian Stores, 17, are from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Lane Funeral Home, Austintown Chapel, where services will be at 7 p.m. Friday. Tribute, A10

Funeral arrangements for Elijah Paige, 20, are pending.

Neighboring county coroners say they’d arrange for police or fire investigators to get weekend access to morgues for identification of the deceased, in contrast to events this past weekend in Mahoning County.

In addition, nearby colleagues of Dr. David M. Kennedy, Mahoning County coroner, said their offices would have been represented at the crash in Campbell on Saturday morning after three people died when a car struck a house at 80 to 90 mph.

“We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with an investigator on call at all times, and I’m on call 24/7/365,” said Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, a forensic pathologist who is Trumbull County’s elected coroner.

Three occupants of the car died at the scene of the Campbell crash: Elijah Paige of Campbell, the 20-year-old driver; Poetry Dotson, 21, of Campbell; and Ian Stores, 17, of Boardman. The lone survivor, Malquan Patton, 17, of Campbell, who was critically injured, remains in St. Elizabeth Health Center. No one in the house was injured.

A fire-storm of criticism from families of the deceased and others has been directed at Dr. Kennedy since Saturday.

Citing coroner’s staff shortages from budget cuts, he refused to send anyone from his office to the scene and would not open his morgue to police to confirm identifications of the deceased for the families during the weekend.

Dr. Roger Marcial, Portage County coroner, and funeral directors J. Bradley McGonigle III and Russell Noga, coroners in Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania, respectively, all said their offices would have been represented at a scene like the one in Campbell, and they would arrange weekend morgue access for police or fire officials wanting to confirm the identification of a deceased person.

“We do that routinely because the police need to know. Families need to know. You can’t have a family held hostage by agony,” Dr. Germaniuk said.

“The most important person in our office is not me, not the investigators, not the secretary; it is the patient [and surviving family members] because that is who we are here to serve. The minute you forget that, you might as well do something else,” Dr. Germaniuk said.

Mahoning County commissioners will meet with Dr. Kennedy at 10:15 a.m. Friday to discuss his budget and last weekend’s events.

Dr. Germaniuk said, in a small jurisdiction such as Campbell, he probably would have gone to the scene.

Dr. Germaniuk said he makes his go or no-go decision on “an index of suspicion that they may need a forensic investigator or myself to be there.”

Had he gone to a scene, such as the one in Campbell, he might have helped verify who was driving based on evidence, such as a gas pedal or brake impression on the bottom of the driver’s right shoe, he said.

In the recent seven-vehicle accident in Warren Township that killed three Marine recruits, however, he said he didn’t go to the scene because he knew the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which specializes in motor- vehicle accident investigations, had full investigative capabilities at the scene.

Instead, he was at the morgue at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital when the bodies arrived for examination after the crash.

“I understand Dr. Kennedy’s position that he can’t be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Atty. David Comstock, who also is fire chief of Western Reserve Joint Fire District, which serves the village of Poland and Poland Township.

“On the other hand, it does not seem unreasonable, in this particular case, to have assisted in identification for those individuals at some point over the weekend.”

Dr. Kennedy’s office spent $637,838 last year and his budget was cut by the county commissioners to $600,000 this year.

Dr. Germaniuk’s budget was cut even more, from $673,000 last year to $601,000 this year.

Dr. Kennedy has a staff of seven, including himself, Dr. Joseph Ohr, the forensic pathologist and deputy coroner, who performs autopsies; three investigators, a secretary and a financial officer. One of Dr. Kennedy’s three investigators will be laid off Friday.

Dr. Kennedy’s office handles about 350 cases a year, of which about 220 are autopsied.

The Trumbull County coroner’s office has handled between 213 and 271 cases annually in recent years, with 80 percent of them being autopsied, and Dr. Germaniuk performing most of them.

Dr. Germaniuk said he hasn’t laid anyone off and doesn’t plan any layoffs.

The Trumbull coroner said he stays within his budget by being frugal with utilities and office supplies, by selectively responding to death scenes to save time and mileage, and by being both the elected coroner and forensic pathologist. Besides himself, he has a staff of four investigators and a secretary.

When police or fire officials notify him of a death, Dr. Marcial of Portage County said he sends his chief investigator to survey the scene and call him from there before he decides whether he, too, needs to go to the scene.

Dr. Marcial said he goes to any homicide, suicide or “unusual scene.”

The Portage County Coroner’s office handles 100 to 110 death cases annually, of which 50 to 65 percent are autopsied, said Wayne Enders, office administrator. The office budget there has been cut from $330,000 last year to $306,000 this year.

Neither Marcial, nor McGonigle, nor Noga have a forensic pathologist on their staffs. Marcial sends bodies to Akron and Cleveland for autopsies. McGonigle sends them to Erie or Pittsburgh; and Noga sends them to Beaver Valley Medical Center or Pittsburgh for autopsies.

Ohio’s elected coroners must be physicians, but they need not be forensic pathologists.

The elected coroners in 65 of 67 Pennsylvania counties need not be physicians. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, however, have appointed medical examiners who must be physicians.


Here is how responsibilities are typically divided at a multiple-casualty accident scene such as the one Saturday in Campbell:

A call comes to the 911 center reporting the nature and location of the accident with injuries.

Fire, police and ambulance services respond simultaneously to the scene.

Police secure the scene and, if necessary, provide traffic control.

The fire department secures the vehicle; provides for scene safety if gasoline is leaking from the vehicle; extricates victims, removing anyone with signs of life first, to provide access to victims; and may also provide initial patient care.

Once access to patients is obtained through extrication, ambulance personnel begin treating the patient or patients.

Once all of the living patients are removed from the vehicle to be transported to the hospital, the coroner is called, typically by a paramedic, and notified of the deceased at the scene.

The coroner normally sends an investigator to the scene.

Police interview witnesses and perform their accident reconstruction to determine how the accident happened.

The bodies are removed to the morgue to await autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.

Police call a tow truck to remove the vehicle from the scene to an impoundment lot to preserve the vehicle as evidence for future examination.

Source: Atty. David Comstock, Poland fire chief


Comments

11970mach1(1005 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Other coroners seem to know what to do. Mahoning Co. should elect a new one in 2012 .

This whole fiasco won't help get the tax passed. it makes people on the fence decide they are not going to vote for more taxes with the kind of attitude Kennedy displayed.

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2opddad(61 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Dr. Kennedy could learn a thing or two in representing himself and his office from the professionals in this article.
I can think of two words for Doc Kennedy for starters...Passion and Compassion.
Passion, to do his job, and, Compassion, for the deceased,the deceased family members and friends .
I do not know Drs.Germaniuk and Marcial personally or otherwise, but, I have a whole lot of respect for both of them speaking truthfully, and NOT, demonstrating "good old boy," or "badge of silence," "etiquette!"
Dr. Marcial puts it all in perspective with his two words..“unusual scene.” This was not an traffic accident, involving a lone driver. Does Doc Kennedy,know who was driving? Maybe the driver was the only one who had drugs or alcohol in his/her system or, just maybe..had a seizure.
Thank God, this type of accident with multiple fatalities, is not the norm for any city, weekend or weekday. But,for Doc Kennedy it seems like, .. just another ho-hum day at the office.

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3jason83(21 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

“The most important person in our office is not me, not the investigators, not the secretary; it is the patient [and surviving family members] because that is who we are here to serve. The minute you forget that, you might as well do something else,” Dr. Germaniuk said.

Dr. kennedy, you need to go!!

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4UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Tell Dr. Kennedy you understand his motives. Vote NO on the 1/2% sales tax levy because you are tired of the complaining public officials who only have one answer - Tax & Spend - instead of budget control.

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5ttup1rd(27 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

You people in Mahoning County don't get it. Yes I feel bad for the families but the TWO FACED commissioners told him and every other county office to make budget cuts, lay people off, and do what ever you have to do to save money. He told everyone a month ago what was going to happen and no one seemed to care. If Dr. Kennedy had sent an investigator to the scene you IDIOTS would be bitching he's waisting county money when he was told by the commissioners no more overtime.....

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6fcb(318 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

It's just another case of no dedication. Had it been his children,I'am sure he would have been singing another tune.It's a sad world today with all this Me,Me,Me stuff and to hell with every one else.

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7havinmysay(155 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Under Ohio law coroners have too much autonomy. There is a lot more of this sort of thing that happens than people are aware of.

The family can make an ethics charge with the state medical board but I doubt anything will happen. The truth is he did not break any law. The coroner's office should HAVE to go out to any death scene but they don't. They have too much discretion.

Discretion is a dangerous thing in the hands of someone like Kennedy.

The only thing people can do is vote this lazy, unfeeling slug out of office. Retire him permanently so he can be at home in his bunny slippers every Saturday morning.

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8NilesOhio(691 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

It's easy for other coroners to come out of the woodwork and say "I wouldn't have done that." Indeed, some wouldn't. But I'd be very surprised if this wasn't often going on in lower-profile cases.

Don't think that I'm defending the coroner. I'm not. But it's an unfortunate way that some may start posturing a candidate for the 2012 elections.

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9BillyBob(92 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

@ ttup1rd

No, we get it. Many of us, including myself, have salary jobs & work 8 - 5 Monday - Friday. There are multiple times throughout the year where something important comes up & I will come in during the weekend (with no extra pay) to make sure what I need to do gets done.

I can't think of a more important situation then parents not getting to see their decreased children! I come into work without extra pay for far less impotant situations then this on weekends despite my M- F, 8-5 job.

I think people need to take a step back and look at this situation for what it truly is - 3 deceased children & parents not being able to see them, peiod.

There is not many people I know that would not stop whatever they were doing to help someone out in this situation ESPECIALLY someone who had complete access to help these parents out, such as Kennedy did (not to mention it's his job).

Why didn't he go do the job himself? His job is to serve the public & while his pay isn't an enormous amount of money, it still is enough to validate going above & beyond in a public position.

Sure, he warned everyone of this happening but the public probably thought that if a situation like this occured, he'd take care of it himself (again, like I & most other people would have).

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10Reader(126 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

To ttup1rd
what the heck are you talking about "two faced comissioners"?
The economy is bad, every business and citizen has to make budget cuts. The comissioners may have advised that budget cuts were necessary but they sure as hell did not tell him to stop operating his office or serving the citizens. Everyone wants to lay blame but lets be reasonable here, Kennedy made a horrible choice that hurt families already in pain, gave our county a bad image and did not do his job, Lets not look at the comissioners office as the scape goat for the coronors ignorance.
I'd vote for the tax if I can vote the coronor out of office. I hope he is serverly reprimanded.

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11walter_sobchak(1840 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I can understand Dr. Kennedy not responding to the scene as the cause of death here was very obvious. But, to make the family wait until Monday morning is cold and heartless. He may not be breaking the law but it doesn't say much for his regard for the public trust. I think it is long enough for this Kennedy to occupy the office.
That being said, the set-up for county government is archaic and needs revamped. There are way too many chiefs and each one gets a budget. ANd, they don't know the words "zero-base budgeting". We need to have county administrator and appointed positions for clerk of courts, recorder, auditor, treasurer with shared staffing.

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12MaryG(26 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I can understand that budget cuts can hinder some things but this is not about budget or any financial situation. This is about human beings and the compassion that the families of the deceased deserve. I say Dr. Kennedy needs to be in another line of work.

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13redvert(2046 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

What exactly does this "financial officer" on Kennedy's staff do and what is his/her salary? Is this separate position necessary with a total staff of seven?

Before we start raising taxes to cover expenses let us be sure that the current funds are being used effectively!

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14sundog(3 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Dr. Kennedy and his family are great people and would do anything for anyone. The past several years Dr. Kennedy has never had any negative issues in the public eye and has done a great job both with his personal practice as well as Coroner. As far as some of the comments about his kids etc. How do you know if he has kids and how do you know what negative things he has been through and what great things he has contributed to our valley? Sotired, that comment is disturbing and excessive and does not do any justice to the situation at hand. That obviously is threatening to Dr. Kennedy and his family. Anyways, as far as the county budgets and this situation go, i hope our economy picks up, crime goes down, jobs prevail, and most of all the families and friends of these children eventually find comfort and peace after this horrific event. My thoughts and prayers sincerely go out to you

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151970mach1(1005 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

"Dr. Kennedy and his family are great people and would do anything for anyone."

Well, except go to the crash scene in Campbell or open the coroner's office for them.

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16BGGHammer(21 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

This Dr.Kennedy is a real piece of
sh!t He should be fired and put somebody in who wants to do his job. Budget is no excuse. He is saleried and should be on call like all the other coroners.

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17BillyBob(92 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

@ sundog

"Dr. Kennedy and his family are great people and would do anything for anyone."

Why didn't he get off his butt & go let the families see their children??? Your comment makes NO sense. I wish I could have had access so I could have taken the time to let them in.

Answer this: why in hell did he not just go let the familes in himself out of human decency alone?

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18Cassie(88 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Dr. Germaniuk has a national reputation for excellence. Let's try to get someone of his caliber as our next coronor, instead of paying $63,000 for a "part time" coroner and, as I understand it, over $100,000 a year for a forensic pathologist. No matter how he tries to cover his butt, Dr. Kennedy showed his true colors as a hack enjoying a cushy public job without much effort, although I would be willing to bet on my opinion that the commissioners and the country administrator advised all elected officials and agency heads to make cuts that will hurt the taxpayers the most in order to get the sales tax passed.

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19walter_sobchak(1840 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

sundog,
Familiarity breeds contempt! Dr. Kennedy may be a great man from a great family, but his response to this tragedy is unacceptable. There is no way that this man should be re-elected to this office. He possibly should be recalled. Events such as those that happened this weekend only happen once or twice a year. He could open his office for the families. What he put them through was equivalent to torture. With as cold and callous as he appears to be, maybe he should have considered being in oncology. No doubt, its time for a change in this office. Dr. Kennedy...INNA!

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20MOM509(8 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Dr Kennedy is my family Doctor. He is the kind of doctor we all wish we had. Very caring & compassionate. He cares about the valley too. I think too much is being made of this at Dr Kennedy's expense. He took this job when no one else did & did it for next to nothing. Where can you find someone who cares enough to do that? The other coroners who commented have no business sticking their noses in where they are not wanted. If Dr Kennedy is voted out because of this incident (since no one has been running against him) we will see how great these other coroners are when the bodies from Mahoning county are sent to them.or they are called for us. Dr Kennedy you have my vote.

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21Silence_Dogood(1315 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

MOM509
Seeing as you see Dr Kennedy on a regular bases ask him this one question.

Dr Kennedy if it was YOUR child that died in that car, would you have sent someone to work the scene .

Now we all know the answer to that. The short answer is he does not care enough about the people in the car wreck, or his job for that matter.

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22Silence_Dogood(1315 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

sotired
You stated "Dr Kennedy is very lucky that one of those kids in that car was not one of MY family members. I would have personally went to his house, drove through the front door, put my 9mm to his head and had him drive to the coroners office to make the identification. I would have then made him type a letter of resignation and made a video of him saying I am resigning on my own free will, took the letter and video to the press and calmly waited for the police to come and arrest me. I would then request a jury trial and dare jury members to find me guilty due to what Dr Kennedy did to 3 families "

I would be more then happy to sit on a jury and take your challenge. I would find you guilty of kidnapping, interfering with a public official's duties, intimidating a public official, using a weapon in the commision of a crime, and being in possesion of a useless brain. All in all I think you would do about fifty years and I would not miss a nights sleep sending you off to the big house.

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23dscsrc2(1 comment)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

My prayers go out to the families that have lost their child. I have lost a child too. However it was Dr Kennedy"s caring and compassion that help me from losing my mind. He was there everytime that my son or I needed him while my son fought his fight against cancer.

His bosses the commissioner's are the one to blame. Just like anyone that has a boss you may not like what they do you still have to follow their directives.

As far as Dr. Germaniuk goes I h ave been on a jury where is has testify during the case. He did not show up at a crime scene when it occurred, instead he had a police officer secure the scene until he got there which was not until the next afternoon. I also noticed that his budget was higher with less of a case load, so that is a bad eexample on his part.

Why didn't the police officer check for ID on the victims, they could have been the ones to notify the families after the accident.

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24Lifes2Short(3875 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

sotired

Your pathetic. And you know, if anything happens to Dr. Kennedy you'll be put on the suspects list, because that is a threat and admissible in court. You need to grow up.

Anyway, why is this incident blown so out of proportion is beyond me, do you think this is the first time this has every happened? Dr. Kennedy had 10 calls this weekend that someone died and didn't go to any of them. Why the complaining about this incident? This was a clear cut case if I ever heard of one. The Police ID'd them and notified the next of kin. Isn't that what the whole issue is about? How many years has Dr. Kennedy been a doctor/coroner? All of sudden he's this no compassion heartless villain of a person where as before the majority of the people didn't even no he was a coroner. If I was him I would just resign being a coroner and have someone else take the job to put up with the garbage. It'll always be damn if you do and damned if you don't. It's not like he didn't warn the public what was going to happen.

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25opddad(61 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I'm sure Doc Kennedy is an excellent husband, and a good family physician. Heck,he's probably a more loving,and respectful husband, than most men, and, his bedside manner is probably exquisite, based on the comments posted by the folks who know him personally here. Unfortunately, in this day and age, it's not, "what have you done for us lately, it's, what have you done for us today!" Elioit Spitzer is a good example of that, or, how about Jim Traficant? Sure, those examples are on a higher level of Govt., but, it's all relative.
If Doc Kennedy is "kind of a big deal," how about an apology for this fiasco?
Hmm..never mind, I think it's too late anyway!

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26Citizengirl(5 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Dr. Germaniuk stated he did not go to the scene of a recent three-person fatality because he knew that the state patrol was on the scene. Is this a statement he is making on the competency of the Campbell Police Department? Perhaps he knows something that should be brought to light? Or, instead of sensationalizing and glossing over the intricacies of this position, we should focus on the fact that Dr. Kennedy used the same logic in not reporting. The Campbell Police Department was on scene and investigating. Dr. Kennedy, much like Dr. Germaniuk in the three-car fatality instance, trusted the competencies of the responding law enforcement agency. Some of you may go further and say "Well, at least Germaniuk was waiting at the morgue." That's fine, however, Dr. Kennedy could not open the morgue. It was not a matter of refusal, a word that has been thrown around lately. It was a budgetary matter, one that was not a problem when the county announced that budget cuts needed to be made. Had the morgue been opened, would it not have required more manpower, possibly the backing of the sheriff's department? Would this not incur more debt on the part of the county? This is not to say that I am strictly a numbers person, I understand that the families wanted to see their loved ones. However, no one seems to realize the bodies were identified and the families were notified at the time of the accident of their loss, it's not as if they went without knowing that their children had been killed in this accident. Also, as a step-mother, I would not want to be notified and asked to report to the morgue to see my step-child, or any loved one for that matter, lying there before being cleaned and tended to, which is something that would have required the staffing to do prior to the bodies being viewed.

Also, I think we are forgetting that this was not the only call over the weekend. Let's look at the facts, people. A point that has not been noticed in this story is that the neighboring counties' coroners stated they would be on call and are at every scene. Funny, did anyone notice the ratio of calls to Dr. Kennedy's? Germaniuk has 213 to 271 annually and Marcial has approximately 110 a year while Kennedy has 350 a year. Do the math, people, Germaniuk has a load that is approximately 60% to 77% of Kennedy's while Marcial's is 31% of Kennedy's. In one weekend, Dr. Kennedy had 10% the amount of calls Marcial has in one year.

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27jason83(21 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Citizengirl, you are way off base here. Germaniuk also took a large budget cut and is making do. Germaniuk is not only the elected coroner, he also does the autopsies and the bookkeeping. Kennedy does neither. He answers phone calls and delegates. Basically a part time secretary at $65,000 per year. When he was sworn to ofiice, he agreed to the obligations of the job. We, the employer, have not empowered him to change the duties of the office. He must make do as we all do, or move on.

You and all his other friends and cronies can come on here and tell us how wonderful he is. He very well may be, but the fact is he has dropped the ball in a major way and without any regret. My favorite comment of yours from a different post " I don't think that this is a question of being heartless or lacking compassion as some of you assert, instead, I think it's an example of the type of politician and county official you seem to be begging for. He's being responsible on the part of the county, and would you not have crucified him if he put in the county into a liability or debt-incurring situation? Or gone back on his word as so many of our local politicians do?"

So I guess we all should be thanking him instead. I think not. He failed miserably.

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28Citizengirl(5 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Jason 83, you're right Germaniuk has a lower budget because he is both the coroner and the forensic pathologist and he has approximately 60% of the cases.

I fail to see how Dr. Kennedy, a man who has held the office spotlessly for 16 years, failed miserably. I fail to see how he should be dragged through the mud for something he told the county at-large he was going to do weeks ago with nary a word in opposition. It's not like he made this announcement and figured that people would only die, get murdered or make poor decisions on a Monday through Friday basis. He knew the potential consequences, and frankly, so did the commissioners. An obvious fact since they requested he make the cuts to make the budget. Maybe they should have held the meeting that is scheduled for tomorrow at an earlier time to avoid this from happening. They didn't. I am not transferring blame, but merely requesting that some of you take a step back and look at the facts from all sides, something that tend to go by the wayside in these blogs.

The bottom line is that it is easy for you to make these decisions after the fact and when it is not your job. It's easier to criticize than research. Wouldn't it be great if everything was just that easy?

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29jason83(21 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Citizengirl posted 1 hour, 45 minutes ago

""Jason 83, you're right Germaniuk has a lower budget because he is both the coroner and the forensic pathologist and he has approximately 60% of the cases.

The bottom line is that it is easy for you to make these decisions after the fact and when it is not your job. It's easier to criticize than research. Wouldn't it be great if everything was just that easy?""

Citizengirl, most of the criticism is coming from people like myself who have never had a reason to study the operations of the coroners office. It usually takes a terrible botching such as this to bring the public scrutiny. People now realize how the Mahoning County office is being run. Thanks to Vindy, the people also have other counties to compare. Unfortunately for kennedy, the people are now aware that they have been paying a man $65k a year to be a part time secretary. That is by his own admission.

Does anyone know what Germaniuk's county salary is? It should be about 10x greater than kennedy, but I doubt it.

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30opddad(61 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

CG
What you may be missing here is..Say for instance, at a large company you've work for many years, you are the head of one of their departments. Stay with me here..the company tells you that they are cutting back. You have to lay off a couple people and you have to watch your spending, big time. What would you do if a question concerning negativity in your job performance comes up afterwards? It could be the next day, month or year, it wouldn"t matter.
Well..you explain to the company, that it's their fault and you knew this would happen because of..you guessed it..THE BUDGET CUT. Seriously..would that be the answer the company was looking for?

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